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The man who wrote for the ‘Figaro’

John Sturrock, 25 June 1992

Selected Letters: Vol. III, 1910-1917 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Philip Kolb, translated by Terence Kilmartin.
HarperCollins, 434 pp., £35, January 1992, 0 00 215541 9
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Correspondance de Marcel ProustTome XVIII, 191 
edited by Philip Kolb.
Plon, 657 pp., frs 290, September 1990, 2 259 02187 5
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Correspondance de Marcel ProustTome XIX, 1920 
edited by Philip Kolb.
Plon, 857 pp., frs 350, May 1991, 2 259 02389 4
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Correspondance de Marcel ProustTome XX, 1921 
edited by Philip Kolb.
Plon, 713 pp., frs 350, April 1992, 2 259 02433 5
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... Proust wrote too many letters: he thought so and so anyone might think, as Philip Kolb’s expanding series of annual volumes edges towards the writer’s death, in 1922. Sheer numbers would not have mattered had they been stronger letters, but Proust’s correspondence is too much of it mechanical or emptily ingratiating, the one remaining exercise of the social virtues by a man who had taken to his bedroom (with occasional querulous sorties late at night to the Ritz Hotel) in order to be alone with his asthma and the prodigiously radiating manuscript of his novel ...

Proust Regained

John Sturrock, 19 March 1981

Remembrance of Things Past 
by Marcel Proust, translated by C.K. Scott-Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin.
Chatto, 1040 pp., £17.50, March 1981, 0 7011 2477 6
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... In the spring of 1920 Marcel Proust was fretting because the good ‘Gaston’ (Gallimard, his post-war publisher) had been unforgivably slow in arranging for translations of his now successful novel to be started. In the past 12 months Du Côté de chez Swann had been published for a second time (the little-noticed earlier edition was in 1913) and A l’Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs for the first time; and Proust had, strangely, won the Prix Goncourt, a corrupt award which he had wanted but which generally goes to works of uncomplicated mediocrity ...

Little Green Crabs

John Bayley, 12 October 1989

Albertine gone 
by Marcel Proust, translated by Terence Kilmartin.
Chatto, 99 pp., £11.95, August 1989, 0 7011 3359 7
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Marcel ProustA Biography 
by George Painter.
Chatto, 446 pp., £20, August 1989, 0 7011 3421 6
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The Book of Proust 
by Philippe Michel-Thiriet, translated by Jan Dalley.
Chatto, 406 pp., £25, August 1989, 0 7011 3360 0
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Marcel Proust. Selected Letters: Vol II, 1904-1909 
essays by Philip Kolb, translated by Terence Kilmartin.
Collins, 482 pp., £25, September 1989, 0 00 217078 7
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... One of Proust’s friends is supposed to have said of him that beauty did not really interest him: it had too little to do with desire. A remark which is not entirely lacking insight. It might be said that the relation of the two fascinated Proust as they had fascinated no writer before him, and he perceived that the kinds of pleasure involved in the two concepts were indivisible ...

The Thing

Michael Wood: Versions of Proust, 6 January 2005

In Search of Lost Time: Vol. I: The Way by Swann’s 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Lydia Davis.
Penguin, 496 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118031 5
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol.II: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by James Grieve.
Penguin, 576 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118032 3
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. III: The Guermantes Way 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Mark Treharne.
Penguin, 640 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118033 1
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. IV: Sodom and Gomorrah 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by John Sturrock.
Penguin, 576 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 9780141180342
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. V: ‘The Prisoner’ and ‘The Fugitive’ 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Carol Clark and Peter Collier.
Penguin, 720 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118035 8
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In Search of Lost Time: Vol. VI: Finding Time Again 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Christopher Prendergast, translated by Ian Patterson.
Penguin, 400 pp., £8.99, October 2003, 0 14 118036 6
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The Proust Project 
edited by André Aciman.
Farrar, Straus, 224 pp., $25, November 2004, 0 374 23832 4
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... What was it Proust said about paradise? That all paradises are lost paradises? That the only true paradise is a lost paradise? That it isn’t paradise until it’s lost? That paradise is a name for a favourite form of loss? He can plausibly be read as saying any of these things, and perhaps more than one at once ...

English Proust

Christopher Prendergast, 8 July 1993

In Search of Lost Time 
by Marcel Proust, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin, revised by D.J. Enright.
Chatto, £15, November 1992, 0 7011 3992 7
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... Much or the last volume of Proust’s novel is devoted to life in Paris during the First World War. Proust, the least chauvinistic of writers, is nevertheless so moved by patriotic sentiment as to transgress the convention which keeps a fictional world separate from its author: In this book in which there is not a single incident which is not fictitious, not a single character who is a real person in disguise ...

An Absolutely Different Life

Michael Wood: Too Proustian, 7 November 2019

Sept conférences sur Marcel Proust 
by Bernard de Fallois.
Editions de Fallois, 312 pp., €20, January 2019, 978 1 03 210214 6
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Proust avant Proust Essai sur ‘Les Plaisirs et les jours’ 
by Bernard de Fallois.
Les Belles Lettres, 192 pp., €21.50, May 2019, 978 2 251 44939 5
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‘Le Mystérieux Correspondant’ et autres nouvelles inédites 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Luc Fraisse.
Editions de Fallois, 174 pp., €18.50, October 2019, 978 1 03 210229 0
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... and set up his own company in 1987. At one point, he was considering doing postgraduate work on Proust; he said in one of the lectures now published as Sept conférences sur Marcel Proust that he had been ‘tempted to conduct … a university exercise that one calls a thesis’, and the wording alone tells us a ...

There are some limits Marlowes just won’t cross

Christopher Tayler: Banville’s Marlowe, 2 April 2014

The Black-Eyed Blonde 
by Benjamin Black.
Mantle, 320 pp., £16.99, February 2014, 978 1 4472 3668 9
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... I was beginning to think perhaps you worked in bed, like Marcel Proust,’ a waiting femme fatale says when Philip Marlowe hits his office in The Big Sleep (1939). Marlowe’s response: ‘Who’s he?’ ‘A French writer,’ she says, ‘a connoisseur in degenerates. You wouldn’t know him.’ She couldn’t have said the same to Philo Vance, S ...

Proust and His Mother

Michael Wood, 22 March 2012

... it either. An example would be Walter Benjamin’s wonderful remark about missed experiences in Proust: None of us has time to live the true dramas of the life that we are destined for. This is what ages us – this and nothing else. The wrinkles and creases on our faces are the registration of the great passions, vices, insights that called on us; but ...

Beat the carpets later!

Michael Wood: Proust’s Noisy Neighbours, 7 May 2014

Lettres à sa voisine 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Estelle Gaudry and Jean-Yves Tadié.
Gallimard, 86 pp., £11.40, October 2013, 978 2 07 014224 8
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... It’s really​ a miniature novel,’ we read in the introduction to this collection of Marcel Proust’s newly discovered letters, ‘C’est un vrai petit roman.’ It’s such a perfect novel that it looks like a hoax. Twenty-six letters from Proust to his upstairs neighbours at 102 boulevard Haussmann, none of the letters heard of before, many of them complaining about the noise: how could this not be a parody? And isn’t it too broad a stroke to make the husband a dentist? The wife a delicate, suffering lady who plays the harp? Please ...

Gallivanting

Karl Miller: Edna O’Brien, 22 November 2012

Country Girl: A Memoir 
by Edna O’Brien.
Faber, 339 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 0 571 26943 3
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... a more figurative bent, together with raids on the purple and the stylish. It also has a raid on Proust’s purple: ‘Marcel Proust has described bells as being “resilient and ferruginous”, but in that small room in that pension, with the pale green band of light from the clock radio, they were bold and ...

‘Tiens! Une madeleine?’

Michael Wood: The Comic-Strip Proust, 26 November 1998

À la recherche du temps perdu: Combray 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Stéphane Heuet.
Delcourt, 72 pp., €10.95, October 1998, 2 84055 218 3
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Proust among the Stars 
by Malcolm Bowie.
HarperCollins, 348 pp., £19.99, August 1998, 0 00 255622 7
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... He joined the club of dreamers. On the basis of no statistical evidence at all, I suspect that Proust is at the head of the list, at least in Europe and the Americas, of authors people dream of reading, easily outclassing those former champions Tolstoy and Joyce. I also suspect that chiefly novelists enter this kind of dream, that those who think of ...

Diary

Robert Walshe: Bumping into Beckett, 7 November 1985

... Hemingway and Pound and Rilke and Gide and Joyce and the entire gratin of 20th-century literature. Marcel Proust was said to have come, once, in the middle of the night, and one can only speculate about the outcome. Two hundred pages, at a rough guess. I first learned about all this lying flat on my back one Saturday morning trying to disperse the effects ...

Spivsville

Jonathan Bate, 27 July 1989

Train, Train 
by Graham Coster.
Bloomsbury, 225 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 9780747503941
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The Philosophers 
by Alex Comfort.
Duckworth, 176 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 9780715625118
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The King of the Fields 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer.
Cape, 256 pp., £10.95, July 1989, 0 224 02663 1
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Sister Hollywood 
by C.K. Stead.
Collins, 224 pp., £11.95, June 1989, 0 00 223479 3
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Penelope’s Hat 
by Ronald Frame.
Hodder, 440 pp., £12.95, July 1989, 0 340 49397 6
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... up with particular delicacy. One of Frame’s previous works was called A Long Weekend with Marcel Proust: a short weekend with Penelope’s Hat suggests to me that such time as this author has spent with Proust has not been time lost. The sense of smell is unusually prevalent for an author writing in ...

Diary

A. Craig Copetas: Yaaaggghhhh, 25 June 1992

... on mushrooms, William Emboden on narcotic plants, D.H. Lawrence on meeting interesting women, and Marcel Proust babbling about French society in a most peculiar syntax. I’d never heard of any of these writers; the slow-rising central horror of education in Middle America is that Great Expectations and that hollow little bastard Pip represent all there ...

A State Jew

David A. Bell: Léon Blum, 5 November 2015

Léon Blum: Prime Minister, Socialist, Zionist 
by Pierre Birnbaum, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Yale, 218 pp., £14.99, July 2015, 978 0 300 18980 3
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... to his lifelong infatuation with Stendhal, and to his similarities with the half-Jewish Marcel Proust (who knew Blum and thought poorly of his writing). He carefully notes what Blum read in captivity during the war: Cicero, Shakespeare and Goethe, but also Rousseau, Musset, Mme de La Fayette, La ...

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